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Exploitation of Child Labour Needs Due Attention

Opinion by Alem W. Gebriel, The Daily Monitor (Addis Ababa) 20 February 2001

Addis Ababa—It is a commonplace for people residing around Kera, Merkato, Piazza and Arat Kilo to see numerous child prostitutes between the ages 13 and 16 standing at the doorways of slum houses waiting for their customers.

Some greedy people make profits from such uncanny businesses by renting out part of their houses which, mostly are designed to accommodate only one bed for these child prostitutes.

The lion’s share of the money which these prostitutes make goes to the person who rented the house from the kebele.

These people abuse the children, neglecting most of their needs, they treat them not as human beings but as their personal property. They do not worry much about the health risks that these children are exposed to-they are only interested in making money off them.

When these children get sick or make mistakes like getting pregnant-they throw them out, thereby forcing these poor children to be exposed to a more bitter life and probably death due to lack of medical treatment.

The slums may protect these children from the cold out in the streets, but it is also the one place which covers up most of the crime committed against these children.

Since most of them are not well informed about taking care of themselves, the possibility of their contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) becomes high.

In addition to sexual exploitation, such female children in the city are also involved in difficult and strenuous day time work.

They work as housemaids and baby-sitters. Unfortunately most of them do not get paid at all except in the form of meals allowed for their survival.

They are exposed to various physical hazards while working the entire day without any rest-they are made to carry heavy loads that stunt their growth beyond their capacity, they are constantly engaged in activities leaving them at risk of burns, cuts, broken bones. . . and they are physically abused for not performing beyond their capacity.

They are neither allowed to go to school nor to play with their peers.

Although I have not managed to get the exact figures on female- child-labor-exploitation one can confidently deduce that it is prevalent in Ethiopia and deserves due considerations and practical measures by concerned bodies.

In a poor country like Ethiopia where most of its population lives below the poverty line-the awareness of most people about child labor is very limited. Most regard it as a natural task which every child should pass through in his/her life.

Awareness needs to be developed among the population about child labor and its harmful effects on the general well-being of children.

Moreover, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association and other responsible bodies have been doing commendable work to reduce the incidents of cruel sexual harassment committed against female children.

They should also do the same to combat child labour exploitation and alleviate the suffering of these children who are vulnerable to disease and other danger.

Humanitarian organizations should also play their part in supporting these children get an alternative source of income and access to education.